Ara Malkhassian, of Houston, set the fastest time during practice one preceding Round Seven of the SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, part of the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix Presented by Hawk Performance. Kenton Koch, of Glendora, California, and John Dean, of Sebring, Florida, completed the top three, respectively.
Malkhassian set his fastest lap of 1:35.575 (92.622 mph) at the 10-turn, 2.459-mile circuit as the checkered flag came out on the 30-minute session. Driving his No. 11 ALARA Racing MX-5, Malkhassian credited his fast lap to the draft he got from Koch.
“It’s nice to be back at a big, high-speed track,” Malkhassian said. “I really like these type of tracks and have pretty good luck with them. The car, with the BFGoodrich g-Force R1 S tires, is really hooked up. It feels like we’re going faster than we’ve ever gone at this circuit. The setup is great and Kenton [Koch] has done a great job for our team.
“By getting a draft from Kenton [Koch], I was able to set the quickest time. He’s a little quicker than me, but was able to help me out a little. We’re not going to pretend that no one else is here. At this track you can’t get away from the competition, and it ends up being a drafting race the whole way through. We expect the usual suspects to be up front, but we’re looking forward to race day.”
Driving his No. 12 ALARA Racing/Mazda Motorsports/BFGoodrich Tires MX-5, Koch stopped the clock with a best lap of 1:35.626 (92.573 mph). That time was good enough to place him in the second position during the session. Koch said he is feeling confident with his car, but is not underestimating his competition as the event progresses.
“We’re looking good for the rest of the weekend, but I think John [Dean] is holding back,” Koch said. “I think he’s got more than what he’s showing us. We were running together out there and he was hanging in there, just chilling.
“I think we’re going to have a dogfight for the pole, tomorrow. With this session we were able to set a fast lap right out of the box. As we ran more, the grip started to go away. It certainly wasn’t getting better, the more we ran.”
Dean, at the controls of his No. 16 Projections Research/PPG MX-5, set a best time of 1:35.891 (92.317 mph). The time landed Dean in third during practice one. Dean said he is glad to be back at a track he likes.
“Coming off Houston, I’m really glad to be back at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park,” Dean said. “I like the high speed corners, since it rewards a driver for being both smooth and fast. The car feels good, but as we work through the weekend we will make small tweaks to the car to get as fast as possible.”
Sebastian Landy, of Great Falls, Virginia, finished the session fourth. In his No. 49 Excitations.com/Atlanta Motorsports Group MX-5, Landy’s best time was a lap of 1:35.978 (92.233 mph).
In the No. 8 OOTSK Performance/Bimmerworld MX-5, Nathanial Sparks, of Spanish Fort, Alabama, completed the top five with a lap of 1:36.055 (92.159 mph).
In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge, Ben Albano, of Greenwich, Connecticut, captured the top spot. At the controls of the No. 61 Project Yellow Light SBMX-5, Albano recorded a best time of 1:37.378 (90.907 mph). That time is quicker than the current official lap record, however as the lap was set in practice it does not count as a new record.
“This track is awesome,” Albano said. “This is the first time I have been here, and once I got out there I felt at home. Going into this session, we were just trying to get ready for qualifying, since it will be very important.
“I like the flow of this track and the elevation changes. It allows the driver to set the corner up well. You really have to be brave here, and I like challenging courses like that.”
Newcomer Mac Korince, of Ridgeway, Ont., Canada, was the second quickest in class, with a time of 1:37.555 (90.742 mph). Drake Kemper, of Toluca Lake, California, finished third, with a time of 1:37.616 (90.686 mph), behind the wheel of the No. 99 Royal Rugby SBMX-5.
The SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires is on track for their second practice session, preceding Round Seven, Friday at 9:00 a.m. (EDT). Qualifying for the doubleheader weekend is scheduled to follow later on Friday, at 1:55 p.m. (EDT). Round Seven is set to start on Saturday, at 8:00 a.m. (EDT), followed by Round Eight later in the day, at 4:20 p.m. (EDT).